But unlike those who just moved home to wait out COVID-19, I’ve been home for the last two years. I’m taking care of my dad, who has brain cancer. Despite the trappings of childhood around me, the roles in my house are reversed. And it’s strange, but the pandemic has offered me something unexpected. As it’s unfolded, as people my age have fled home, anxious about their own parents’ health—I have often felt less alone than I have in a very long time.
I knew my childhood was over when I got the call from my mom two years ago. “Daddy is in the ICU,” she said. “He has a brain tumor.”
Youth, unbridled freedom, a life without deep anxiety: When I hung up the phone I thought, “All that is over.” And it was.
For the next few months, as I visited hospitals and rehab centers with my dad, my New York life dissolved piecemeal. I went back to pack up my apartment.
My leave of absence from work turned into a resignation. My boyfriend and I broke up after six years, over the phone. At that point, my heart was already so fractured that I barely felt anything. I hung up, cried, and drove to pick up my dad from his weekly physical therapy appointment.
At first, my mother, the poet Anne Atik, had seemed just ordinarily confused. Then, very gradually, the confusion took on a pathological aspect. She...